Shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, 1994, the day before she was to
defend her U.S. figure skating title in Detroit, Nancy Kerrigan
was whacked above the knee with a metal baton by an unknown
assailant. The attack, a single, savage blow from which Kerrigan
suffered a bruised kneecap and quadriceps tendon, occurred after
practice as she stopped to talk to a reporter. ¬∂ The perpetrators
of the assault, an investigation revealed, were associates of
Kerrigan's main American rival, Tonya Harding, a sassy pepper pot
who is still the only U.S. woman to have landed a triple axel (at
the 1991 U.S. Nationals).
Jeff Gillooly, Harding's former husband, and three others were
later arrested, and Gillooly, who pleaded guilty to a charge of
racketeering, told FBI investigators that Harding had been
involved in the plot from the outset. Harding, who was living
with Gillooly in the Portland suburb of Beavercreek when the
attack was planned and carried out, denied it.
This was real-life soap opera, and as the titillating details
came to light, Americans reveled in it. Hordes of reporters
camped outside Kerrigan's house. A home video of a topless
Harding in a wedding dress was aired by a tabloid TV show. The
U.S. Olympic committee scheduled a disciplinary hearing on
Harding's status with the Olympic team, but backed down after she
filed a $25 million lawsuit. The Feb. 23 showdown between
Kerrigan and Harding in the Lillehammer Games ended up being the
third-most-watched sports broadcast of all time (some 45.7
million viewers), trailing only two Super Bowls.
Harding bombed in Lillehammer, failing to land a triple axel and
finishing eighth. Kerrigan, fully recovered, skated almost
flawlessly but had to settle for a silver medal. Oksana Baiul,
the 16-year-old ingenue from Ukraine, won the gold in a 5-4
decision, with the judges split along East-West lines.
Three weeks later Harding accepted a plea bargain for a Class C
felony for hindering the prosecution and was sentenced to three
years' probation. She was also forced to resign her membership in
the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Ironically, as a result of
the frenzy generated by the whole sordid story, national interest
in figure skating skyrocketed throughout the remainder of the
She would rather be known for being one of the five U.S. women
who've won two Olympic figure skating medals. For that matter,
she'd be happy to be known simply as a good mom. Married for
seven years to her agent-manager, Jerry Solomon, Kerrigan, 33,
has a six-year-old son, Matthew. She juggles an ongoing skating
career with TV commentary (for the ISU Grand Prix series on
Lifetime), fund-raising for Fight for Sight (her mother, Brenda,
is legally blind) and being a mother. The family will soon move
from Lynnfield, Mass., to Baton Rouge, where The Football Network
(TFN), of which Solomon is president and CEO, is headquartered.
"I'm boring," she says, laughing. "I'm kind of normal. It's a fun
marriage--hectic, but fun." And when she reads about Harding's
latest shenanigans, what does she think? "What a shame," Kerrigan
says. "She did have talent." Better to be boring and
In Lincoln City, Ore., on June 13, rookie prizefighter Emily Gosa
was the designated patsy in the home-state boxing debut of
Harding, the 1991 U.S. figure skating champ lately disparaged as
the Great White-Trash Hope. After four rounds of stumbling,
slapping and catcalls, Harding won a unanimous decision, her
third in four pro bouts. "I could care less if people boo me,"
says the bantamweight billed as America's Bad Girl. "They paid to
Since the '94 Olympics, Harding, 32, has had trouble with the
law, alcohol and an infamous home video. She's been hooted at by
the public and hounded by reporters who still throw themselves at
her door in thick, lapping waves. Yet she has remained undaunted.
"The best revenge is success," she says of her new ring career.
"Lots of people want me to fail. That's what drives me."
Baiul's father, Sergei, left the family when Oksana was two, and
her mother, Marina, died when Oksana was 13. She settled in the
U.S. a few months after winning the gold in 1994, eventually
living alone in Simsbury, Conn., drinking and partying to excess.
In '98 she entered a rehab center, and says she hasn't had a
drink since. At a Christmas party in 2000 she met a fellow
Ukrainian, Gene Sunik, a clothier who had never heard of her.
Last summer Sunik proposed, and last year they launched the
Oksana Baiul Collection, a line of women's and girls' skating
apparel. Sunik deals with the logistics; Baiul roughly sketches,
chooses the fabrics and approves the designs.
Later this year Baiul, 25, plans to travel with Sunik to her
hometown of Dnipropetrovs'k to reconnect with her father. "I want
to start a family soon," she says, "but I also want to find the
part of my family I never knew." --Brian Cazeneuve